Books: Making Relationships Last
The thrill of the hunt is over. All the self-help guides that helped accomplish the feat are tossed aside. Now what? Is it time to slovenly settle into the relationship, with partners taking each other for granted?
No, says a new book from the Foundation Center of New York. "After the Grant: The Nonprofit's Guide to Good Stewardship" helps nonprofits that have received grants figure out what to do now.
The most important step is to build a healthy relationship with the grantor, says book editor Judith B. Margolin, a consultant to the organization on foundations and grants, program planning, and evaluation.
She says the book, which is part of a series, is "very accessible with lots of charts and examples, so it really comes alive."
Here, Margolin — who spent 21 years at the Foundation Center, where she authored and edited the center's series of how-to books on proposal writing and related topics — elaborates on "After the Grant."
FundRaising Success: Why create this book?
Judith Margolin: At the Foundation Center, we perceived a real need for this publication. After an extensive literature search, it was clear that while there were many books on how to get money from foundations, there was hardly anything in writing about what to do once you receive a grant. The book is really about stewardship, which is something that funders care about quite a bit — that is, effective management of someone else's money.
FS: How does this book address challenges fundraisers are seeing in this economy?
JM: In a competitive philanthropic environment like the one we are in now, fundraisers really need an edge. Building a reputation as a serious grantee, one who is responsive and responsible, is critical to developing and maintaining ongoing relationships with funders. As to the foundations themselves (many of which have lost up to 30 percent of their assets), increasingly they are under scrutiny from their own boards to demonstrate the effectiveness of their funding strategies. Selecting and awarding funds only to those nonprofits that are well-run and can demonstrate results is one way for foundation executives to satisfy their own boards' concerns.
FS: This book was due out in April. How well is it being received? Who is buying it?
JM: Sales are quite good. Both large and small organizations can benefit from it, since it provides very practical, hard-core advice about such matters as how to read a grant letter carefully before signing it; what fiscal and other systems should be in place to effectively run a grant project; how to conduct yourself during a meeting with a funder; what forms of communication are most effective with your funders; and how to set yourself up for the next grant before the current one concludes.
FS: The preceding books in this series, about applying for and winning grants, have more competitors than this one may. Does that also mean there's more demand? What's the challenge in letting fundraisers know that they need this book?
JM: This book is really the first of its kind. You are right to say that there are many more books out there on getting funding than on what to do once you have it. My guess is that other publishers will now follow suit, since there is a real need for more on this topic.
The challenges in getting fundraisers to read (keep in mind that it is available for free in 450 of the Foundation Center's Cooperating Collection Libraries) and/or buy it are no different than for any other book. Books are a tough sell these days, since most people prefer to get their information in other formats. Another challenge is the fact that foundations, right now, are more reluctant than in the past to award grants to first-timers. And those who are more veteran fundraisers may believe, erroneously, that they don't need advice like that provided in this guide.
FS: The book provides insights from both the grantor and grantee perspectives. Why should both parties learn about each other's points of view?
JM: That is an interesting question. Just as background: We had decided that this book should be a compendium. To put it together we asked a select group of seasoned professionals on both sides of the grantmaking equation to contribute various chapters. Everyone who participated did so on a pro bono basis and, I might add, were more than happy to contribute because they felt this little-understood topic was so important. The interesting thing to note is what a high level of concurrence there is between advice provided by foundation executives to nonprofit grantseekers and advice from seasoned fundraising professionals to their colleagues. This advice is almost identical.
FS: Why is it important for grantees to develop a relationship with the funder?
JM: In fundraising, it's all about the relationship. It may sound trite, but people give to people. That is quite evident if you read the case studies. In each of those successful grant projects, a real rapport developed between funder and grantee, to the point where the grantee actually provided assistance to the funder in a variety of ways unrelated to the grant.
Novice grantees are often intimidated by their new funder and therefore fail to communicate appropriately. This is particularly the case when there is not-so-great news to relay. They tend to avoid the funder like the plague during those circumstances. And that is a big mistake, since program officers at foundations love to help you problem solve and very much view themselves in this role. It is truly embarrassing to them when news comes out about one of their grantees to which they were not privy in advance.
FS: The book mentions providing an accounting to funders. Why does the book state this needs to be done? (Isn't it required?)
JM: You are correct in that the grant report is par for the course in virtually every case. But often, it is done on a very much pro forma basis, with little thought on the part of either party. A key point made in the book is that nonprofit grantees should view the grant report as an opportunity to truly engage the funder and to set themselves up for the next grant request for the same or a different project. Demonstrating results that are measurable is one important way to do that. FS